Thursday, July 24, 2014

Taxing your brain power

A friend on Facebook reposted a link encouraging everyone to boycott Walgreens because they were planning to merge with a Swiss firm to "avoid paying U.S. income tax".

//rolling my eyes so far into my head I see brain matter//

It's called inversion, and it's partially the result of the U.S. having one of the top corporate tax rates in the world. Oddly enough, inversion can actually be good for business in the U.S.

If a multi-national company is headquartered in the U.S., they have the privilege of paying U.S. taxes on their American operations - and also on the profits from their foreign operations, as soon as they bring those profits stateside. This is why you see the news stories laden with hysteria about the massive amounts of funds companies like Apple are "hoarding" offshore. Apple is incredibly successful world wide; the instant they bring any of those profits into the U.S., for any reason, they are subject to 35% tax.

Not exactly motivation to bring those profits over.

This is an oversimplification, but it lays out the basic issues. My widget company can't use the profits earned in Germany to improve the infrastructure of my American stores without first losing a substantial chunk of those profits to tax.

If I merge with a foreign widget company, however, and the merged company is organized in a country with a lower tax rate, it's good for everyone. My company is still taxed in the U.S. for operations in the U.S. - something all the hysterics don't seem to understand. But the foreign profits are taxed at the presumably lower foreign rates, and paid in to the foreign tax systems.

Since I'm now free to bring those foreign profits (net of the foreign taxes paid) to the U.S. without fear of losing a third to U.S. tax, I can bring that money over and use it in my domestic operations, through improvements or expansion, via investment or in any of the million other opportunities available here. One would assume I'd be doing that sort of thing in order to make more money in my U.S. operations: more earned = more taxes to the U.S.

As I said, inversion can be good for everyone involved.

I hadn't really meant to impose a tax lesson on you, gentle reader; it's the kneejerk, "OMG BAD!! BOYCOTT!" reaction to these sorts of reposts in social media that make me more than a little bit cranky. People are much too prone to believe everything they read/hear. It took all of two minutes to do a search and some research into exactly what inversion is, and maybe another two minutes to think through why a company like Walgreens may be investigating using it as a corporate strategy.

The correct response here is not to swear off Walgreens because they are abandoning the U.S., but to wonder why our country has a tax structure that is so bad for business, and call for changes.

There is simply no reason these days to be uninformed. Take the time to do some research. Learn how to evaluate the sources of information. Ask questions. Ask more questions. Deliberately try to see the other side of the issue, with an open mind. Carefully think through all you've learned.

Don't just reaction without knowing more about the issue.

//rant off//

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Yearning for streets of gold

The band at my church tends to make fun of country music, in that annoying, overly-ironic wanna-be hipster way (no offense meant;  I'm just feeling my age today). But sometimes, there are sentiments that only a country melody and a talented baritone can fully express.

Yearning for heaven today.

Mansion Over the Hilltop

I'm satisfied with just a cottage below
A little silver and a little gold
But in that city where the ransomed will shine
I want a gold one that's silver lined

I've got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that Bright land where we'll never grown old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on the streets that are purest gold.

Don't think me poor or deserted or lonely
I'm not discouraged, I'm heaven bound
I'm but a pilgrim in search of a city
I want a mansion, a harp and a crown.

I've got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that Bright land where we'll never grown old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on the streets that are purest gold.

Written by Ira F. Stanphill

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Let's get cooking

Nothing makes you hungrier than watching episodes of Julia Child's The French Chef while you wait for the grocery order to be delivered.

Although Julia is making veal right now, and I've not been able to afford veal in years.

Has anyone?

The plan for lunch is home made minestrone of sorts. Cannelini beans, carrots, onion, celery. A whole tomato, blanched, peeled and chopped. Vegetable broth and a shot of tomato paste. Italian seasoning, salt & pepper. Chopped kale for just a minute at the end to wilt.

No pasta; the beans have enough starch in them. Besides, you have to have bread to sop up the very last of your bowl of soup.

Better start chopping.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Why yes, it is rather nice here

Someone on Facebook linked to a rather nice article about Milwaukee. The "small town feel" with "big city amenities" is something we hear fairly often.

The picture gallery at the end is worth clicking through. It highlights a number of downtown/near downtown attractions - the old Pabst Brewery complex, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Harley Davidson Museum, the Public Market, Summerfest and our gorgeous (if slightly chilly) Lake Michigan shoreline.

All in Milwaukee is not cheese curds, beach volleyball and beer, however. Within a ten mile radius or so is our spectacular Zoo, Miller Park (and Miller Brewing - take the tour!), the Jelly Belly factory (tours!), the State Fair grounds (the Fair, craft shows, builders' shows, sports shows, auto races) as well as our extensive and well maintained county park system.

The Milwaukee Bucks are under new ownership, with everyone looking forward to changes to come. The Brewers are (well, were...) on fire this year. We've a wonderful symphony, great ballet company and more theatre companies than just about any other city our size. There are several monthly art gallery nights.

Thanks to the local culture that values ethnic heritage while remaining uniquely Milwaukee, on any given night you can check out restaurants featuring Ethiopian, Turkish, Serbian, Mexican, Central American, Polish, German, Italian, Irish and soooo many other dishes.

After all that, you can stop at Leons or Kopps for delicious Wisconsin custard for dessert. Trust me, frozen custard is sooo much better than simple ice cream.

Work off all that deliciousness on the miles of bike trails, or in a bowling or volleyball league. For a slower pace, check out the bocce ball at the Italian Community Center.

Can you tell I like it here?

We tend to get overlooked, as the city with wide shoulders to our south horns in to take over the limelight.

Can't say we mind that much.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A midweek state of mind

Eh, it's Wednesday. Most times, Hump Day brings a little lift of the spirits, as half the traditional work week is over. I can't seem to work up much enthusiasm this week.

The local media is losing their collective mind over a freeway closure scheduled for this weekend. All east and west bound lanes of I-94 at the Zoo interchange will be closed from 11 p.m. Friday night until the wee hours of Monday morning. This section goes through the busiest intersection in the state - a new railway bridge is being put in, as part of the major revamp of the interchange.


Chill, dudes. It's a weekend, traffic is lighter. The Brewers aren't playing. Yes, Festa Italiana is going on down at the lakefront, and the Waukesha County Fair is running out west, but there are plenty of other routes to get places than the state-sanctioned (OMG!!! TRIPLE TIME!) detours.

We will see tonight if "World Cup Fever" is a sign of true interest in professional soccer by Americans, or if it's just a passing disease. Miller Park's beautiful baseball diamond has been torn up, in order to install a soccer pitch. Tonight, the park will host a match between Chivas Guadalajara and Swansea City. Milwaukee (supposedly) has a large base of soccer fans, as well as a (true) large and growing Hispanic population. It will be interesting to see what the attendance is like tonight.

There is a very small wasp nest being constructed under the (high) eaves above the living room patio door. I've sprayed it twice, now, though in both cases, the nest was at the very furthest point of the 20-foot spray. I suppose I'll have to go out at dusk tonight, get a bit closer (I've been shooting from the other set of patio doors (two sets from the condo to the patio, at right angles to one another) because I'm chicken) and blast it. Frankly, I can sit in the living room and watch them work on it - fascinating. Not fascinating enough to let them complete their project, however.

I was all set to yell at my doctor in Monday's appointment, but it turned out to be the best appointment I've had in the last two years. I still spoke rather firmly; there were a number of things I wanted to get out. The result is a plan that (finally) deals with one of the underlying issues, and may see the horrible-side-effect-inducing med either reduced or eliminated entirely. Yay, me. All was not good news: the endocrinologist that my doc (finally) referred me to six months ago is leaving the practice, because his wife keeps whining about how cold it is here. Sheesh.

The next presidential election simply cannot come too quickly. The best hope is that the conservatives keep the House and retake the Senate, and stall any potentially stupid bills until the White House changes hands. Oh - and someone hides all the pens, pencils, markers, charcoal sticks, paint, needles (for pricking and writing in blood) and any other potential writing implements floating around the place.

In a related note, apparently there is talk of housing up to three hundred of the current crop of illegal children in Milwaukee (due to our proximity to Chicago's immigration court, or so they claim). I do understand that on some level, this is a humanitarian crisis, even though it is one of the Administration's making. I'm curious though - as I understand it, Mexico has one of the toughest immigration stances of any country around. Illegals found in Mexico are promptly shipped back to their home. So how is it that so many of the illegals coming into the US from Mexico right now are from Central American countries, none of which share a border with the US? Inquiring minds...

Friday, July 11, 2014

First day of summer days

Ah, Friday. And a short one, at that. Today is the first of my two months of "summer days" - essentially stacking my work time earlier in the week, in order to take off half days on Friday.

This year, I've opted for half days rather than full days. While I love three day weekends, and working ten hour days isn't either unusual or hard, I just cannot do it in the summer. My workload is much lighter in the summer, and that makes trying to put in a ten hour day torture.

So, half days. Out of here at 10:30. Yay! Lunch with an aunt and cousin today. Afterwards, pick up a picture I had taken in for framing. Home to maybe do a bit of outside work.

Other than that, no other plans for the weekend. Bliss. I need to start on the t-shirt quilt, get caught up on some picture taking and clean out the refrigerator. Maybe even make a quick run to the city dump.

In spite of the national media's brandishing the term, we are not experiencing a "polar vortex" next week. This cool down was predicted back in December, and is a result of the recurring weather pattern that set up for this year (the one that did bring the vortex in January). I realize people who enjoy hot and sticky are having fits, but personally, I find this the perfect weather - the best of any season. Highs in the mid-sixties to low seventies, sunshine and a gentle breeze.

With luck, I'll get pictures of a couple of charity quilts posted by the end of the weekend, and a couple of other long-overdue things taken care of. We'll's just possible I may spend the weekend just lazing on the patio with a book...

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Movie Mayhem

It may seem I'm a bit television/movie obsessed. While I don't have cable television, I do have Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. You would think that with all those possible outlets, I should be able to watch just about any movie I would like, at any time.

Not so.

I'm increasingly finding that the only way to view certain films is to rent them from Amazon. They simply are not available for free on any of the three services, even though they may have been in the past. Frustrating.

The ability to offer certain films or shows on streaming is governed, apparently, by ever-more-complex contracts between the studios who own the rights and the businesses who want to distribute the product. It's almost impossible to track what will be available when, much less for how long. It leaves the viewer in a bit of a quandary.

I want to (finally) watch the second part of the Hobbit (The Desolation of Smaug). Of the three services, only Amazon has it, and only for rental or purchase, not free (with Prime) streaming. Okay - I can resign myself to paying for it. But I'd like to rewatch the first part, to refresh my memory on what has already happened, and where that part ended.

Part one is also only available from Amazon, again, only for rental. I didn't care for it enough the first time to be willing to pay to see it again...

Complicating the issue are my viewing habits. A movie is simply background to doing something else - sewing, folding clothes, chopping veggies, polishing silver. But if I'm paying for it, I feel as if I should just sit and watch, to get my money's worth. Drives me crazy to do that.

Sigh. In the light of world events, this is a small thing to get panties in a twist over. Still, it may be time to fire up the ipod and stream my favorite radio station.

At least until they start charging, too.